Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The DMV and The Vatican: Who Really Sets The Rules For the Road?

The Vatican issued a set of "Ten Commandments" for drivers, telling motorists not to kill, not to drink and drive, and to help fellow travelers in case of accidents and to use all of your fingers when giving a hand gesture to another driver. What would you expect from today's Catholic Church. The unusual document from the Vatican's office for migrants and itinerant people also warned that cars can be "an occasion of sin" - particularly when they are used for dangerous passing or for prostitution. Makes you wonder how they know cars are used for that latter one!

It warned about the effects of road rage, saying driving can bring out "primitive" behavior in motorists, including "impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the highway code." It urged motorists to obey traffic regulations, drive with a moral sense, and to pray when behind the wheel. Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the office, said the Vatican felt it necessary to address the pastoral needs of motorists because driving had become such a big part of contemporary life. Maybe it was his predecessor Pope John Paul who in his spare time tolled around the Vactican City like a teenager in a street race.

The document, "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road," laments a host of ills associated with automobiles: drivers use their cars to show off; speeding; drivers can kill themselves and others if they don't get their cars regular tuneups, if they drink, use drugs or fall asleep at the wheel. It called for drivers to obey speed limits and to exercise a host of Christian virtues: charity to fellow drivers, prudence on the roads, hope of arriving safely and justice in the event of crashes. And it suggested prayer might come in handy making the sign of the cross before starting off and saying the rosary along the way. So without further ado, here they are...

The Drivers' Ten Commandments

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

The one thing the Vatican didn't deal with is what words to yell at other drivers who are driving slower than kids on skateboards or what is truly offensive when it come to personalized license plates. I guess that's up to the DMV, who seems in some ways to have a higher moral standard than the Vatican. Here in California, one guy is going head-to-head with a California DMV over his head-turning vanity license plate.

There are tens of thousands of these plates on the streets. But before it gets onto your car, it has to pass the "moral majority screeners" at the DMV. Keith Wagner, owner of some controversial vanity plates, is now going to court with the DMV because someone else's interpretation had the DMV putting the brakes on this bumper billboard. The plate hate debate hit just this month and Keith Wagner can't figure out why. I had the plate for about five years now, it says 'go to 11'."

Keith got a letter telling him to turn in his tags because, "Someone says it says 'go to hell'. It says go to 11," said Keith referring to a scene in the movie "This Is Spinal Tap". So far, it's not a good enough explanation for the DMV. "The question is that reasonably would it offend a number of people?" said Steve Haskins, head of the Moral Majority at the DMV. "There's a degree of common sense that you have to look at," said Haskins. When asked what his license plate will have on it if he has to go to court over this, Wagner said whatever it is it will have "DMV" in it.

This could turn out to be a slippery slope and I think it's time for the Vatican to get involved. Someone could be offended by just about anything. In this day of blogging, First Amendment rights and self-expression, who gives a flying crap about vanity plates. I think they're kind of fun. I think the DMV should stop worrying about petty crap like this and move on to the bigger issue - Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan. There's two people who don't need to behind the wheel!

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong!